Vitamin D (otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin), is synthesised in the skin in response to sunlight. The amount of sun light that teenagers need to produce enough vitamin D varies hugely and is down to a number of factors. This is why the Government recommends children and teenagers supplement with Vitamin D.
Teenagers need vitamin D for many processes in the body to work effectively. It is needed to help with the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus, key nutrients in maintaining normal bones and teeth.
Vitamin D is also needed for the normal function of the immune system. A normally functioning immune system works to keep us well and effectively fight infections.
Teenagers also need vitamin D for the normal functioning of their muscles. Muscles need the correct nutrition during the teenage years. The teenage years may also be a time when a person becomes serious about sport and exercise begins serious training in their chosen field, meaning muscles need maximum support.
The biggest factor to vitamin D status in teenagers is sun exposure. The darker the skin tone, the more direct sunlight teenagers need for adequate vitamin D synthesis. It is recommended that the skin is exposed to direct sunlight for a minimum of 20 minutes per day for Caucasian, and more for ethnicities with darker skin tones. This can be particularly challenging in the UK, where the majority of the year we do not get direct sunlight, let alone be warm enough to expose our bare skin.
Food plays an important role in vitamin D status. Vitamin D is also found in in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon. However food sources only provides a tiny proportion of what we need.
The government currently recommends supplementing with 10mcg (400 IU) of vitamin D daily for people at risk of vitamin D deficiency. People at risk are those who always cover their skin, are of ethnic minority groups with dark skin (African, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian background). The recommendation for the general population is to take 10mcg of vitamin D in autumn and winter.
If we take a look at how a large proportion of teenagers are spending their time, the vast majority of it is not outside when their skin is directly exposed to sunlight. A lot of teenagers are now finding hobbies which are mostly inside, and therefore their exposure to sunlight is reduced. It is easy to fill this shortfall however with a multi vitamin for teenagers.
If you’re looking for a children’s vitamin d supplement try:
Learn more about the importance of Vitamin D with our Expert Chats with Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson: